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North American buying Camcorder in Europe

 
 
Skookum
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      06-27-2006
I am on a brief visit to Germany and England (I normally live in North
America). I was considering buying a DVD Camcorder but heard that there
may be a compatibility problem since most of Europe uses PAL format
while the Americas rely on NTSC. I am completely ignorant of what this
means though I did have a look at the relevant Wikipedia articles.

My bottom line question is whether I should forget about buying over in
Germany or Britain (I have found some great deals on Sonys and
Panasonics)?

 
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PTravel
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      06-27-2006

"Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
>I am on a brief visit to Germany and England (I normally live in North
> America). I was considering buying a DVD Camcorder but heard that there
> may be a compatibility problem since most of Europe uses PAL format
> while the Americas rely on NTSC. I am completely ignorant of what this
> means though I did have a look at the relevant Wikipedia articles.
>
> My bottom line question is whether I should forget about buying over in
> Germany or Britain (I have found some great deals on Sonys and
> Panasonics)?


You'll need an NTSC camcorder for use in North America, and, to the extent
they're available, will be more expensive in Europe. NTSC and PAL are
incompatible video standards, the latter being common in most of Europe
(SECAM being a less common, but equally incompatible, European standard).

Since you're buying a DVD camcorder, I assume neither video quality or
anything more than minimal editing is of concern to you.

>



 
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Skookum
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      06-28-2006
Thanks for the information and I also am interested in the last comment
you make. I do not know much about competing formats: are you saying
that the Mini DVs or some other format os preferable? Although I won't
be into editing much (I suspect), image quality is important and I'm
wide open to your advice on this.


PTravel wrote:
> "Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
> news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
> >I am on a brief visit to Germany and England (I normally live in North
> > America). I was considering buying a DVD Camcorder but heard that there
> > may be a compatibility problem since most of Europe uses PAL format
> > while the Americas rely on NTSC. I am completely ignorant of what this
> > means though I did have a look at the relevant Wikipedia articles.
> >
> > My bottom line question is whether I should forget about buying over in
> > Germany or Britain (I have found some great deals on Sonys and
> > Panasonics)?

>
> You'll need an NTSC camcorder for use in North America, and, to the extent
> they're available, will be more expensive in Europe. NTSC and PAL are
> incompatible video standards, the latter being common in most of Europe
> (SECAM being a less common, but equally incompatible, European standard).
>
> Since you're buying a DVD camcorder, I assume neither video quality or
> anything more than minimal editing is of concern to you.
>
> >


 
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Skookum
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-28-2006
In previous reply, I forgot to ask: if I went for the other format
would that still involve the problems with PAL versus NSTC or is that
not applicable to other formats?


PTravel wrote:
> "Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
> news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
> >I am on a brief visit to Germany and England (I normally live in North
> > America). I was considering buying a DVD Camcorder but heard that there
> > may be a compatibility problem since most of Europe uses PAL format
> > while the Americas rely on NTSC. I am completely ignorant of what this
> > means though I did have a look at the relevant Wikipedia articles.
> >
> > My bottom line question is whether I should forget about buying over in
> > Germany or Britain (I have found some great deals on Sonys and
> > Panasonics)?

>
> You'll need an NTSC camcorder for use in North America, and, to the extent
> they're available, will be more expensive in Europe. NTSC and PAL are
> incompatible video standards, the latter being common in most of Europe
> (SECAM being a less common, but equally incompatible, European standard).
>
> Since you're buying a DVD camcorder, I assume neither video quality or
> anything more than minimal editing is of concern to you.
>
> >


 
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Alpha
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-28-2006

"Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
> In previous reply, I forgot to ask: if I went for the other format
> would that still involve the problems with PAL versus NSTC or is that
> not applicable to other formats?


This applies to any format, DVDR or other DV formats. Further, your charger
may not be a universal frequency and voltage type. This idea is frought
with the potential for buying something useless.

You would need to find a universal format device, and these, on any
continent, are expensive!


 
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PTravel
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-28-2006

"Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
> Thanks for the information and I also am interested in the last comment
> you make. I do not know much about competing formats: are you saying
> that the Mini DVs or some other format os preferable? Although I won't
> be into editing much (I suspect), image quality is important and I'm
> wide open to your advice on this.


DVD is a delivery medium, not a capture medium. Video DVDs store video
using mpeg2 compression. Mpeg is a lossy, temporally compressed format.
"Temporally compressed" means that the transcoder uses frames both ahead and
behind a reference frame, calculates what has changed, and then stores only
the changes. For mpeg2 to yield high-quality video, it must do multiple
analysis passes to calculate optimum compression. Commercially-produced
DVDs use multiple analysis passes on high-quality transcoders, which is one
of the reasons they look so good. The built-in hardware transcoders on
camcorders do single-pass analysis and do not result in optimum compression,
so video quality suffers. DVD-compliant video also tops out at a bit rate
of approximately 8-10 mbps and uses compression ratios of about 10 to 1 (or
more). Note that when a camcorder manufacturer claims "DVD quality" video,
they do not mean you will get the same quality of video that you're used to
seeing on commercial DVDs. What you get is "DVD quality," all right,
because it comes from a DVD. It is, however, degraded video and does not
remotely approach commercial DVD quality (or even what you can get burning
your own on your home computer using good quality consumer software).

miniDV uses the DV-25 standard. It is not temporarlly compressed, i.e. each
frame is compressed individually, without reference to preceeding or
forthcoming frames. This allows for very efficient, optimized compression
in the camera. DV-25 compresses at about a 5 to 1 ratio. DV-25 has a data
rate of 25 mbps, i.e. 2.5 to 3 times more video data per second than DVD.
Accordingly, miniDV is considerably less compressed and captures
considerably more data than DVD.

If you looked at _only_ the format in which the video is captured, miniDV
yields an obvious and rather dramatic advantage, i.e. all things being
equal, video from a miniDV camcorder will look significantly better than
video from a DVD camcorder.

However, there are other factors that determine video quality besides
bit-rate, compression ratio and temporal vs. non-temporal compression.
Video quality is also determined by such factors as sensor size, quality of
electronics and, most significantly, quality of the lens on the camera.

DVD camcorders are designed to appeal to the same consumers who purchase
disposable film cameras, i.e. those who are "technically challenged," and/or
want a very simple and inexpensive solution to capturing images. As a rule,
DVD camcorders have tiny CCDs, low-quality lenses and sell themselves on the
basis of gimmicks, e.g. built-in "special effects," "digital" zooms that
produce an unusable and degraded image, long optical zooms that further
reduce light sensitivity and introduce all sorts of optical defects,
distortions and chromatic aberrations, etc. Note that there are plenty of
miniDV cameras with these characteristics as well -- crappy cameras aren't
confined only to DVD camcorders, and manufacturers produce low-end miniDV
camcorders that will produce video every bit as bad as that from a DVD
camcorder. However, miniDV has evolved into a stable prosumer/professional
format -- feature films have been shot on miniDV ("Open Water" and "28 Days
Later" are two that come to mind), the BBC uses miniDV cameras for
electronic newsgathering (ENG), and good miniDV cameras can produce video of
the the highest quality. Note, too, that, while there are prosumer miniDV
camcorders, e.g. the Sony VX2100 and Canon XL2, there is no such thing as a
prosumer DVD camcorder.

If you care about video quality, get the best miniDV camcorder you can
afford. Sony and Canon make some pretty decent mid- to high-end consumer
machines, but you won't find them on sale for $300. If you really care
about video quality, get a 3-ccd machine (3 sensors, one for each primary
color, instead of a single sensor with a mosaic filter on top). However, do
_not_ get a low-end Panasonic 3-ccd machine -- these were designed
specifically to sell to consumers who had heard about the advantages of
3-ccd, but didn't want to spend the money for a prosumer machine (the VX2100
has a street price of around $2000, the XL2 around $3,000), and represent
good marketing rather than good engineering. You'll get better video from a
comparably priced single-ccd Sony or Canon.

Things to look for:

The bigger the CCD the better -- 1/6" is too small, and will have absolutely
dismal low light performance. You won't be able to use it indoors or at
night. 1/4" is better, but still not very good. A camera with a 1/3"
sensor would be best (again, for comparison, the VX2100 uses 3 1/3"
sensors).

The bigger the physical size of the lens, the better. More glass passes
more light, which will improve the low-light performance. Also, to get a
reasonably wide field of view requires a large lens.

Look for Zeiss optics -- not required, but an indicator of a good-quality
lens.

OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) provides smoother looking video than EIS
(Electronic Image Stabilization). On Sony machines, OIS is called "Super
Steadyshot," whereas EIS, in Sonyspeak, is just "Steadyshot." I don't know
whether there is such a thing as a camcorder without stabilization of some
sort, but it's an absolute requirement if you don't want your video to look
like Dad's 8mm movies.

DON'T get more than a 10x or 12x zoom. As I indicated, long zoom ranges on
consumer camcorders degrade the image and lower the light transmissivity of
the lens. Also, no one can hand-hold more than 12x without the image
shaking so badly (even with image stablization) as to render the resulting
video unusable, so this is useless feature.

DON'T be fooled by gimmicks like built-in special effects, wifi, BlueTooth,
USB connectors, so-called "digital zoom" (which merely lowers the resolution
of the resulting image), still imaging capability (see below), etc. The
standard for transferring video from digital camcorders is the 1394/Firewire
port. USB is only for transferring still images, or streaming low-quality
video, e.g. as a webcam.

DON'T buy a camcorder based on its still imaging capability. As a rule, the
higher resolution for the still image capability of a camcorder results in
lower low-light sensitivity and, usually, more digital artifacts in the
video. No camcorder will produce stills remotely approaching the quality of
even an inexpensive p&s digital still camera.

And, finally, a word about editing. Not everyone wants to edit their
videos, and that's fine. However, if you think you might ever want to, know
that, unless you're going to do only simple cuts-only edits, editing the
mpeg2 video from DVDs is difficult to impossible. You'll be limited to a
very narrow range of entry level consumer products, and you won't be able to
do the kind of sophisticated titles, transitions, effects and corrections
that even the most basic DV-codec-encoded AVI editors (which is what you get
when you transfer miniDV to a computer) can achieve. You might not wish to
edit your video some day, but you also might find that your DVD-Rs are
unreadable -- no one knows the archival quality of these things, though I
have DVD-Rs that I burned five years ago, some of which are now error-ridden
and unreadable. miniDV tape, on the other hand, is stable and, like all
digital tape, when properly stored will last for decades.

Probably more than you wanted to know, but there you go.


>
>
> PTravel wrote:
>> "Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
>> news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
>> >I am on a brief visit to Germany and England (I normally live in North
>> > America). I was considering buying a DVD Camcorder but heard that there
>> > may be a compatibility problem since most of Europe uses PAL format
>> > while the Americas rely on NTSC. I am completely ignorant of what this
>> > means though I did have a look at the relevant Wikipedia articles.
>> >
>> > My bottom line question is whether I should forget about buying over in
>> > Germany or Britain (I have found some great deals on Sonys and
>> > Panasonics)?

>>
>> You'll need an NTSC camcorder for use in North America, and, to the
>> extent
>> they're available, will be more expensive in Europe. NTSC and PAL are
>> incompatible video standards, the latter being common in most of Europe
>> (SECAM being a less common, but equally incompatible, European standard).
>>
>> Since you're buying a DVD camcorder, I assume neither video quality or
>> anything more than minimal editing is of concern to you.
>>
>> >

>



 
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PTravel
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-28-2006

"Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
> In previous reply, I forgot to ask: if I went for the other format
> would that still involve the problems with PAL versus NSTC or is that
> not applicable to other formats?


Yep. NTSC and PAL refer to video formats, i.e. what you watch on a
television. There are such things as dual-format monitors, but I guarantee
that you do not have one. In Asia, DVD players that can handle both PAL and
NTSC formatted DVDs are common, but they are much rarer in the U.S. I've
found them on occassion as no-name loss-leaders at places like Best Buy and
CompUSA. They last from 6 months to a year and then break, but for 30-40
bucks they can't be beat (I have in-laws in China, so I frequently buy
PAL-formatted DVDs when I go to visit).

>
>
> PTravel wrote:
>> "Skookum" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
>> news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...
>> >I am on a brief visit to Germany and England (I normally live in North
>> > America). I was considering buying a DVD Camcorder but heard that there
>> > may be a compatibility problem since most of Europe uses PAL format
>> > while the Americas rely on NTSC. I am completely ignorant of what this
>> > means though I did have a look at the relevant Wikipedia articles.
>> >
>> > My bottom line question is whether I should forget about buying over in
>> > Germany or Britain (I have found some great deals on Sonys and
>> > Panasonics)?

>>
>> You'll need an NTSC camcorder for use in North America, and, to the
>> extent
>> they're available, will be more expensive in Europe. NTSC and PAL are
>> incompatible video standards, the latter being common in most of Europe
>> (SECAM being a less common, but equally incompatible, European standard).
>>
>> Since you're buying a DVD camcorder, I assume neither video quality or
>> anything more than minimal editing is of concern to you.
>>
>> >

>



 
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Tim Streater
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-28-2006
In article <9Qoog.124166$(E-Mail Removed) >,
"PTravel" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

[Excellent and informative summary snipped]

> Probably more than you wanted to know, but there you go.


Actually not , personally, I have been looking for good summaries
like this without much success, so thanks for posting it. Hope it helps
the OP, too.

I want to know about editing software, though. I just bought a Canon
MVX35i (might be an Optima 500 or so in the US) and have made a few
quick shots and transferred to a DVD. Not entirely happy with the
quality so far, but I am more curious about software at the moment.

I have a Mac and transferred from the camera using Firewire with iMovie
and used iMovie/iDVD to make a DVD. Is the process of rendering the
video onto the DVD a fixed process or do the various apps do it better
or worse. That is, if I bought Final Cut, and used it instead of iMovie,
do I just get a lot more editing capability, or do I get a better visual
result on the DVD (starting from the same camera-video, that is) as well?

Thanks,

-- tim
 
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PTravel
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-28-2006

"Tim Streater" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> In article <9Qoog.124166$(E-Mail Removed) >,
> "PTravel" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
> [Excellent and informative summary snipped]
>
>> Probably more than you wanted to know, but there you go.

>
> Actually not , personally, I have been looking for good summaries
> like this without much success, so thanks for posting it. Hope it helps
> the OP, too.
>
> I want to know about editing software, though. I just bought a Canon
> MVX35i (might be an Optima 500 or so in the US) and have made a few
> quick shots and transferred to a DVD. Not entirely happy with the
> quality so far, but I am more curious about software at the moment.


When transferring digital video via the Firewire port, a bit-for-bit copy of
the data is created, so there should be no generational loss. I'm not a Mac
person, so I don't know anything about iMovie, but whatever is capturing the
video should store it as DV-codec-encoded AVI -- this preserves the native
format of D-25 video. If you're software is transcoding to anything else,
e.g. mpeg, you'll lose quality.


>
> I have a Mac and transferred from the camera using Firewire with iMovie
> and used iMovie/iDVD to make a DVD. Is the process of rendering the
> video onto the DVD a fixed process or do the various apps do it better
> or worse.


Video isn't rendered to DVD. The process should be this:

1. D-25 video is captured bit-for-bit to a DV-codec-encoded AVI.
2. The video is edited, i.e. transitions, titles, effects and corrections
are added.
3. The edited material (anything other than simple cuts) is rendered, i.e.
the software creates new frames that incorporate the title, effect,
transition, etc.
4. The resulting finished video is transcoded to mpeg2. Transcoding is the
actual translation of the D-25 video to mpeg2, which is required by DVD.
5 The DVD is authored, i.e. menus are added and the mpeg2 is sliced into
DVD-compliant VOB files. The video isn't altered, but merely repackaged to
comply with the DVD spec.
6. The DVD is burned.

Some software, mostly entry level, will do all six steps.

From the standpoint of video quality, step 4, transcoding, is the most
critical. Mpeg2 is a lossy, temporally-compressed format, i.e. data gets
thrown away by this step. Which data and how much of it gets tossed is
determined by the transcoding software. The transcoder has a lot of
decisions to make about how to compress the video. As a rule, the most
optimal compression takes the longest time. Accordingly, entry-level
packages usually introduce signficant compromises so that transcoding
doesn't take too long.

> That is, if I bought Final Cut, and used it instead of iMovie,
> do I just get a lot more editing capability, or do I get a better visual
> result on the DVD (starting from the same camera-video, that is) as well?


If you're getting poor quality video, it's not because of the editing
program (Final Cut Pro is an editing package), but because of the
transcoding. As I said, I don't know Mac, so I can't make any
recommendations. On my PC, I edit in Adobe Premiere Pro, a prosumer-level
editor comparable to FCP. Though Premiere can burn DVDs from the timeline,
I only use it for editing. Once my project is finished, I save it as AVI
(or frame serve, but that's another discussion altogether) and then use a
program called tmpgenc, which is a dedicated standalone transcoder. To give
you an idea of what I meant about compromise, transcoding a 2-hour video
with tmpgence tweaked to its most optimal settings for video quality can
take up to 20 hours on my 3.2 Ghz P4 with 1 gig of RAM. Once the video has
been transcoded to mpeg2, I author in Adobe Encore and burn with Nero. The
DVDs that I produce approach commercial DVDs in technical (if not artistic)
video quality.


>
> Thanks,
>
> -- tim



 
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Thomas Tornblom
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Posts: n/a
 
      06-28-2006
I recommend you take the imovie/iDVD course on:

http://movielibrary.lynda.com/html/modPage.asp?ID=175

My wife got her new dual core intel iMac about two months ago, and I
had some old DV footage I wanted to make a DVD out of, and as I had no
experience with video editing, I found that one month of subscription
was $25 and 12 hours well spent.

One thing that affects rendering quality in iMovie is if you are
rendering in the background or not. They warn against this in the
course, and that is the default.
 
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